The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

My copy of the book smells like the thrift shop it came from. Musty, but in a nice way. It calls to mind images of warm and rainy summer days, stolen away with a good book in a quiet corner of an attic room.

You will soon learn that I am a crier, happy tears, sad tears, and all the sorts of tears in between and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane gets me every time. I have to warn my second graders that I am going to cry at certain parts I read and that this is ‘ok’ and it means the writer does an excellent job of making me care about the characters. One of the  little darlings almost always quietly stands up and grabs me a tissue so I don’t have to stop reading. Although the end of the story is triumphant in its message of redemption I will never forget one of my students reactions after I finished the final page. Tears filmed his large brown eyes as he looked up and me and sighed, “That story was heart breaking… but it was SO good” This is a book that imparts the magic of reading and it is therefore invaluable in a teacher’s arsenal of read alouds.

Popular author Kate DiCamillo created something truly magical in this tale of a hard hearted, egotistical toy rabbit whose life takes an unexpected turn that leads him on a beautiful,scary, and painful  journey of self discovery.  In the beginning of the story Edward Tulane is not capable of caring for anyone other than himself and he does not have an understanding that there is any other way of looking at the world.Although the main character is a toy, Edward’s personal realizations throughout the course of the story  ring true. Adults and children alike can sympathize with Edward’s heartaches and his loss of faith in humanity as his journeys intersect his life with both truly good and realistically wicked characters.  So to can the readers share in Edward’s joy at discovering the value of loving.

This is not just a children’s book but it should be read to children as often as possible. I also recommend it to any adult who asks what they should read next.

The characters and their trials ad triumphs are beautifully imagined and interconnected. The book seeks to impart the importance of love, even when love hurts.

If you don’t believe my personal review or it  seems to syrupy sweet- check it out of the library first. Just promise to let me know if you fall in love as I did and decide to purchase your own copy to read and reread again and again.

I have included some images of the beautifully painted and sketched  illustrations by Bagram Ibatoulline below.

                                       

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Catkin

I fell absolutely in love with Catkin the first time I read it out loud to my second grade class. The tale  by Antonia Barber is about a peculiarly small ginger cat named Catkin. The wise woman who owns Catkin’s mother gives Catkin as a gift to a good farmer and his wife. The wise woman tells Catkin that his job is to guard the good farmer’s daughter Carrie. Catkin and Carrie become fast friends and all is well until one sunny day Catkin is distracted by a butterfly and  leaves  Carrie sleeping unattended in the forrest. The magical Little People are wandering about on that lovely spring day and they come across the slumbering girl and take her with them back to their home under the green hill. Catkin finds a slightly changed Carrie where he left her and does not realize what has happened until the wise woman declares that it is not Carrie at all but a ‘changeling’ that will eventually disappear, leaving the farmer and his wife childless.

Catkin is a valiant main character whose true  loyalty, goodness, and wit unfold as he goes on a journey to save Carrie and fulfill his obligation to protect her.

Children are enthralled by  this tale of kidnapping, magic, riddles, and love. The story is long and I had to read it over several days but it was worth it each time the class collectively gasped or fist pumped in response to Catkin’s trials and triumphs. The gorgeous illustrations by P.J. Lynch add to the magic of the reading experience.

The Search for WondLa

The first thing that attracted me  to The Search for WondLa was the beautifully and imaginatively illustrated cover. My initial impression was that it looked like a modern take on The Wizard of Oz.  I was closer than I realized as the description on the back of the book explains that this book is popular author and illustrator Tony DiTerlizzi’s nod to folk and fairytale masters such as the Brothers Grimm and Frank L. Baum.

The back of the book jacket describes The Search for WondLa as a ‘new fairytale for the twenty first century’ and it does not disappoint. The story follows Eva Nine, a girl living in a futuristic time and place. Eva Nine has lived her entire life underground with a robot care giver known as Muthr. Eva has never seen another human being.

Eva’s sheltered life changes dramatically when her underground home is attacked by a hunstman.Her home is left in ruins and Eva barely escapes with her life to the surface of the planet. Eva has to flee the wreckage of her home with just a few tools for her survival and a mysterious photograph that depicts a ‘girl, an adult, a robot, and the word WondLa.’

Though Muthr spent Eva’s entire life preparing her to survive on ‘the surface’ Eva finds with each passing day that  things are not what they were expected to be.  Eva makes several interesting friends along the way who help her navigate the strange world and help her evade the huntsman on more than one occasion.

Eva is a brave, bright, intelligent , and a wonderfully modern heroine. The characters she meets along the way are all creatively imagined, new and familiar at the same time. The parts for a great story are all here: friendship, loyalty, adventure,mystery, danger, and a wicked cast of villans.

I can’t say more for fear of ruining the fun of unraveling the mystery of this book, the first in a trilogy. In my opinion DiTerlizzi has written and illustrated a new classic and an asset to any adventure loving child’s bookshelf. I would also recommend this as a smashing read aloud for classrooms and living rooms alike!

The quote on the page opposite the title page of the book says it quite well:

“If you want your children to be intelligent, READ THEM FAIRYTALES. If you want your children to be more intelligent, READ THEM MORE FAIRYTALES.”- Albert Einstein

                              

My Father’s Dragon

My copy of the book smells like library. You know the smell- that old library scent is unmistakeable!

Published in 1948, My Father’s Dragon is the first in a series of three books written by Ruth Stiles Gannet about Elmer Elevator and his dragon pal.

The story begins when Elmer befriends and old stray cat. The friendship gets Elmer in a bit of trouble at home (his mother has no love for strays) but gives him the reward of a fantastic adventure. When Elmer expresses his wish that he could fly to his cat friend the cat tells him a magnificent tale about a baby dragon kept prisoner in a faraway place called Wild Island. The cat feels sure that if Elmer can make the perilous journey and free the baby dragon that the baby dragon would  surely repay him by allowing him to ride on his back as he flies. The adventure that follows is sweet and comical. The animal characters of Wild Island and their odd habits are slightly reminiscent of the cast of Wonderland. They take themselves a bit to seriously and are therefore all the more amusing.

This book is an ideal bed time read aloud- with a chapter or two  read each night. It would also be loved by children who are confident readers and  enjoy silly adventure tales. Adults who love the appeal of a simple, sweet tale will also want to add this to their bookshelves.

The illustrations by Ruth Chrisman Gannett (step mother of the author) are another huge asset to the appeal of the book. Gannett’s illustrations are whimsical, comical, and sweet. They perfectly capture the tone of the book and enhance it for the reader’s delight.

I am OBSESSED with the illustrations. Gannett’s illustrations make me feel young and safe. They make me want to go back to a simpler time when I wore footy  pajamas and someone else had to pack my lunch at night. Cheesey? Yes. True? Also yes.

The combination of text and illustrations are what has kept these books in continuos print since 1948.

Love! Adore!

The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog

My copy of the book has lost it’s new book scent. It is now a charming combination of pencils, crayons, and general classroom odors.

The much loved “Pigeon” series by Mo Willems is a classic in its own time,at least on the elememtary school circuit. If you have not seen or read one of these books do so at your earliest convenience!!! And I say, “you’re welcome” in advance.

In The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog we learn a  bit more about pigeon’s personality and his problem with sharing, specifically a hot dog he has found on the ground. We are also treated to the manipulative abilities of a small, yellow, deceptively cute little duckling.

Willems has the ability to squeeze adult personalities into childlike, illustrated characters. Adults will find something disturbingly familiar in the frustrated rantings of the pigeon and the comically cloying manipulations of the duckling. Children will delight in being ‘in’ on the joke of pigeon’s large overreactions.Willem’s deftly illustrates his simple stories to provide maximum laughs.

The book is ideal for children in the primary grades and adults who read books repeatedly to them. I will personally use this blog as an excuse to reread all of the books in the series to my class. I think they enjoy it almost as much as I do!

Cheap in paperback but you will reread them until they fray at the edges!

What Will Fat Cat Sit On?

My copy of the book smells like brand new glossy pages. It is the smell of the unopened boxes of the Scholastic book fair when it comes to your school.

The title of this gem by Jan Thomas says it all. The entire book is an attempt to discover what fat cat will sit on. An Agatha Christie mystery, it is not, but it is more than entertaining. Through a series of questions the reader attempts to ascertain whether or not this plump feline will sit on any number of other animal characters in the book. Mouse,cow, chicken, pig, and dog all eventually have their worries of being crushed assuaged. But they are left to determine exactly what that fat, fat cat will sit on.  This book is great for smaller children who will revel in the repetition of   the “Will fat cat sit on…”? phrase. Everyone can enjoy the comically panicked expressions of the animals vividly illustrated by Jan Thomas. This is a great gift book for a small child and the person who will spend hours reading and rereading it to them. This book is also a treat for adults who enjoy silly cartoon illustrations, people with jobs that keep them up late and sleepless and therefore more easily amused. (though I suppose that is repetitive since I already said parents would enjoy reading the book and parents are the most sleepless set of people I know.)

Cheap. Funny. Snag it!